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FRG Newsletter - August 2014

FRG President's Message: The Florida Regional Group, (FRG) delegation to the Sixty-Ninth Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) Convention will be representing the largest group in our organization. The FRG started with five blinded veterans (BV's) in 1958. Growing to be the largest group has been the result of many factors, but I argue that a major contributing factor has been the consistent purpose that has been present in the FRG throughout our history. The consistent efforts of reaching out and offering support to BV's is what brought us to this point, and is what I would like to see sustained in the coming year. The District meeting at the Rosen Plaza will be the first of seven held before our next FRG Convention. These meetings provide an opportunity for members to get acquainted and participate in their group. Our group is big enough to be a difference maker in Florida. We are also small enough to strike out in new directions based on the changing needs of our members. You can help us at the same time you can help yourself by actively participating in your group. The Rosen Plaza is one of the nicest facilities where the FRG meets. The staff of the Rosen Plaza is familiar with visually impaired patrons. Attending the FRG District meeting offers a real value to our members. Bring your questions, ideas, and opinions to one of the District Meetings and share them with your fellow BV's. Blinded veterans working together needs to be more than a slogan for our organization. FRG District Meetings and our Convention are where reports of our achievements to date are given and plans and resolutions for future actions can be made. Here in Florida, we'll not be resting on our laurels, but beginning the first of seven District Meetings at the Rosen in Orlando where we can identify unmet needs and advocate for solutio1is. I would like to hear from members on what you think might be done to help provide you with tools that could be meaningful to identifying and securing solutions to your transportation problems. The most successful visually impaired people are those that have learned to solve their transportation problems. It has been suggested to me that that might be having the wherewithal to avail oneself of resources. If that is indeed the case, I think some of us could profit from learning of what works when we need a ride. If sufficient interest is expressed maybe we can do something that may make a difference. Another source of assistance is the Chicago Lighthouse which offers a free service to assist you with your questions about your computer. The Chicago Lighthouse offers service on the Computer Help Line. By dialing 888-825-0080 you can contact individuals that can answer your questions about the Victor Reader Stream, Jaws, and more. I have found the individuals operating this service knowledgeable and friendly.

The FRG has been fortunate to have had BV's that have been involved in making the FRG the largest Regional Group in BVA. I am very grateful who your current serving Officers to sustain the momentum that makes Florida a place where BV's can identify and secure the help BV's have earned, to assist them in living independent lives. I invite those of you BV's that are not currently acquainted with FRG to attend our next meeting at a wonderful location, the Rosen Plaza in Orlando, or at the next District Meeting near you. If you have any question about the FRG activities or need information, the following is a list of the 2014-2015 FRG Board of Directors: President - Mike Taylor Fleming Island (904) 264-0884 email met8@comcast.nett; Vice President Gilda (Gigi) Mathis - Lakeland (863) 255-9275 e mail; Secretary-Treasurer George Stocking - Miami (305) 446-8008 email; Past President Terry King - Punta Gorda (941) 505-7747 email; Northwest District - David Bigoney, Tallahassee (850)554-7819 email d.bigoney(; Northeast Curtis Smith - Wellborn (386) 393-3658 e mail; Central West District Earl Bessent- Tampa (813) 2861708 email; Central East District James Car - Lady Lake (352) 259-1702 e mail; Southwest District James Duda -Naples (239) 450-6007 email; Southeast District Jim McCoy - Sunrise (954) 748-9428 email --- Mike Taylor, FRG President,

FRG Meeting Notice: The first Informational Meeting for the Florida Regional Group this fall, will be held on Saturday, September 13th, at the Rosen Plaza Hotel 9700 international Drive in

Orlando. The meeting will begin with a period of socializing at 11         M, followed by lunch at noon.
For lunch, you may have either Breast of Chicken Picatta, or Slice: koast Sirloin with Wild Mushroom Sauce each with Garden Salad with Parmesan Peppercrearn & Greek vinaigrette Dressing, Cheddar Mashed Potatoes, Julienn of Fresh Vegetables, Ice Tea or Coffee, and Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing. The price of the lunch will be $5 per person, including tax and tip.

FRG President Mike Taylor will preside at the informational meeting following lunch. Representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs will be on hand to provide information about services and benefits of interest to BV's and their families. A National Legislative Up-Date will be provided. A report will be presented regarding the BVA National Convention in Reno, Nevada. Future FRG activities will be discussed.

The hotel has asked us to inform them as to the number who will be attendil7g and the type of luncheon you desire before September 3. Please make your reservation by writing to Central east 'Director Jim Car at: 1827 Augustine Drive, Lady Lake, FL 32159 or call (352) 259-1702, e mail You may also contact Vice President Gigi Mathis in Lakeland at (863) 2559275 or e mail gigimathis@tampa; Central West Director Earl Bessent at (813) 2861708, e mail; Orlando VIST Coordinator Chris Collins at (407) 6291599 ex. 1353; Daytona Beach VA VTST Coordinator Connie Stolp at (386) 323 7534. Remember when making your reservation to give the first and last name of each person attending and the choice of lunch desired, before September 10th. We look forward to meeting you in Orlando.

To get to the Rosen Plaza Hotel from Tampa and the Gulf Coast, take 14 East to exit 72, take 528 East (Bee line Expressway) to exit no. 1 - International Drive. Turn right on International Drive; the Rosen Plaza will be on your left after the Convention Center. From Daytona or the East Coast, take 14 and continue as above. From the North or South on the Turnpike, go to exit 259.

Take 14 West to exit 72 and continue as above. Note: The Orlando Convention Center is between the Rosen Plaza Hotel and the Rosen Center Hotel. Our meeting is in the Rosen Plaza, so be sure you have the correct hotel. Complementary self-Parking is available behind the hotel. Notify the attendant that you are with the Blinded Veterans Association to get the complementary self-parking. Regular parking is $13 for self-parking and $20 for valet parking. Check with your fellow Blinded veterans, family members, and friends and make plans to join us in Orlando on Saturday, September 13th.

National Legislative Up-Date: The BVA and PVA continue to work with Congress to get 5 633 and HR 1284 brought to a vote. Time is short, Congress will be in recess from late September until the election in November. S633 and HR 1284 would provide beneficiary travel allowances to veterans attending a Blind Rehab Center or Spinal Cord Injury Center for specialized rehabilitation training. Presently, veterans whose income is above the income threshold must pay their travel expenses. It is probable that the increased independence these veterans achieve would result in a reduction in other treatment at the VA and thus result in a saving to the VA. If this legislation is not passed this year, The BVA and PVA will have to start over in the new Congress which will convene in January 2015. Representative Jeff Miller of Pensacola is chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. We urge FRG members to write to Representative Jeff Miller, attention: James Zumwalt, Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515.

Jacksonville VIST Position up-Date: The VIST position at the Jacksonville VA Outpatient Clinic ias been vacant since August 31, 2013 when Louise DiGennaro retired after over 20 years in that position. Since Ms. DiGennaro had notified the Clinic, well in advance, of her intention to retire, the Clinic worked quickly to find a replacement. The position was announced, applications received, interviews held, and a selection made. Unfortunately, when Human Resources at the Gainesville VAMC delayed completing the processing of the paperwork, the candidate decided not to accept the position. There was a delay in reopening the position. In January 2014, the FRG contacted the office of Gainesville VM4C Director Thomas Wisniski and worked with his Executive staff regarding the ack of an announcement for that position. On February 3td, the position was announced with a closing date for applications of February 24th Again, applications were received, interviews held, and a selection made. Human Resources Submitted the Candidate's paperwork to the Blind Rehabilitation

Service Boarding Panel and it quickly processed the approval.     Since the candidate is already
working at the Jacksonville VA Outpatient Clinic, in a different position, there should not be any delay in filling the position. At the writing of this Newsletter, it is understood that the new VIST position should be filled by the time you receive this Newsletter. Further information regarding the new Jacksonville VA Outpatient Clinic VIST Coordinator, will be included in the September issue of the
FRG Newsletter.

FRG Scholarship Program: The FRG Scholarship Program for the 2014-2015 academic year was announced in the December 2013 FRG Newsletter. The program offered two $1000 Scholarships for children or spouses of Florida Blinded Veterans. In January 2014, a Scholarship Program letter was sent to all members of the FRG. The Scholarship letter contained the guidelines for the Scholarship Program and the method for securing the application packet. Six individuals requested application packets. The cut off date for the receipt of completed application packets was April 15, 2014. One Scholarship candidates sent a completed application packet. None of the other 5 individuals who requested Scholarship Packets returned their packets. Consequently, that applicant will receive a $1000 Scholarship for the 2014-2015 academic year. The successful candidate is Arral Taylor who lives in

Fleming Island and is attending Florida State College in Jacksonville. MS Taylor is working on a Physical Therapy - Occupational Therapy Technician certification program. A check, for tuition, books, and academic fees, in the amount of500 has been sent in her name to the Florida State College in Jacksonville for the fall term and another check in the amount of $500 will be sent in December for the winter 2015 term. The FRG congratulates this successful Scholarship Candidates and wishes her good luck in the future.

FRG Survey Up-date: Those Blinded Veterans who sent the survey, we started in February, can rest assured that it was well worth all of the hard work that many of you put into it. I am happy to give you a snapshot view of the results that we have at this early stage. A more detailed report shall be forthcoming in the next newsletter, because by then we will have completed the total project, and have all of the data entered into the final master data base. We of course did run into a few problems, but those were solved, and by the next time we do the survey, we hope to have worked out all of the bugs. At this early stage I am glad to report that all of the comments that you all took the time to send back to us, have been attended to. Out of approximately 47 problems and or concerns, at least 41 have been satisfactorily resolved. All of the VIST Coordinators were extremely helpful throughout the duration of the survey. One disturbing area that we did run into was phone numbers. Many of our veterans have in recent years gone to cell phone, and have discontinued there land lines. It appears that we are unable to contact about 20 plus percent of the veterans that we have in our data base, at least, based on our finding at this time. What this means is that all veterans that have gone to cell phone and not contacted National BVA Headquarters or the FRG district directors, we have no means of contacting them. Therefore I urge all veterans to check to find out if BVA has a current phone number for you. BBA Membership Director Alyson Alt )800) 669-7079, e mail aalt( In closing this report for now, I would once again like to thank all of the blinded veterans, and VIST Coordinators that made this FRG state wide survey possible. Terry King, Survey Chairman

Meeting Reminder: Remember to mark your calendar for Saturday, September 13th for the FRG meeting at the Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando. Be sure to call those listed above and make your reservations, before September 10th. If you make a reservation and can't come, please call Jim Can or Gigi Mathis and cancel your reservation before that date, so we won't have to pay for unused meals. We look forward to meeting you at the Rosen Plaza on Saturday, September 13th Come join us for an informative and interesting afternoon.

FRG Meeting Schedule:

September 13th        FRG Meeting Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando
October 4th               F
RG Meeting in Jacksonville
November 1st           
FRG Meeting in Ft. Myers
December 6th             Proposed FRG meeting in the St. Petersburg-Clearwater area
January 3rd                 Proposed FRG meeting in Ocala

FRG Newsletter Staff:

Mike Taylor              FRG Presiden
Terry King                FRG Past President and Survey Chairman
George Stocking        Newsletter Editor